I return after a long hiatus with a semi functional left hand. Thank you for your patience with my injury.
*None other than Michael Jordan, generally recognized as the greatest basketball player of all time, has come out condemning players from opting to join their rivals rather than defeat them. And while I would never presume to know more than Jordan about basketball or the NBA, I do know enough to disagree with his position.
First he has a tremendous conflict of interest. Jordan owns the Charlotte Bobcats and is tasked with making it as successful as possible.
While this doesn’t automatically invalidate his statement, it cannot be ignored that he stands to lose out when multiple all-star caliber players join forces on teams other than his.
Jordan might genuinely believe good players shouldn’t team up but I doubt it. I’d venture to guess that if he were able to sign or trade for multiple All NBA players he would jump at the chance. Jordan is notoriously competitive so I can’t imagine him turning down an opportunity to make the Bobcats the best they could be.
In addition there is the evidence from his playing career. Jordan did indeed poetically march into battle with lesser skilled teammates iearly in his career and lose to more talented teams. But when given the chance to acquire better players Jordan did not scoff at the idea, rather he embraced it. When Jordan was finally recognized as the best player in the league and his team had a chance to bring in future Hall-of-Fame player Dennis Rodman, they consulted him. At that time Jordan did not reject the idea – even though he would have enjoyed the plausible excuse of their negative history; Jordan welcomed Rodman and went on to win multiple championships. So Jordan’s current words on the subject seem extremely self-serving (not that I demand anything other than self-interested decisions from people).
But Jordan’s personal situation aside I can’t argue against players forming “superteams” for two reasons. First it is the privilege of those players who are free agents to decide where they would like to play. I am wholeheartedly against the concept of teams having sole discretion in this matter so NBA players can choose to take less money (as many do when they join up with other superstars) in an attempt to chase professional success. Really this is not very different than what many people in non-professional sports jobs do all the time. People take positions that will allow their skill sets to be highlighted with the hope that in the future they will be recognized. I can’t begrudge NBA players for following the same route.
Secondly I find it distasteful and revealing that much of the commentary about the formation of these teams revolves around the player decisions instead of the team decisions. Every time a player decides to join a “superteam” as a free agent, that team had to have offered a contract. Yet we do not look down upon the team’s decision making. Furthermore each season dozens of trades are made in which there is no player agency but where the teams involved are the only decision makers with the same goal (trying to make the team as good as possible) and yet no negative words are spoken or written. In this way we are holding the players to a higher standard arbitrarily.
I understand that good players joining forces does inevitable mean that less teams have a realistic chance to achieve major success. But on a night to nigh basis that doesn’t mean that the games won’t be entertaining, it doesn’t mean that watching the great teams fulfill such lofty goals cannot be satisfying, and surprises can still happen (2004 Lakers anyone?).
Players gonna play. Let them do that wherever they want.
Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Orange County, New York. His writing has appeared in The Journal News. You can follow him on Twitter @historictrev.